Drew Brees, Saints Look To Bounce Back at Carolina

By: Willie Bee | Tuesday, September 11, 2012

It was the Week 1 game that had everyone talking, and it just might end up spelling trouble for the Carolina Panthers though they had nothing to do with it.

Robert Griffin III will never forget his official NFL debut no matter what else he may achieve in his career.  The 2011 Heisman Trophy winner led his Washington Redskins to a tremendous upset to get the pro football campaign rolling, tossing a pair TDs and throwing for more than 300 yards in a 40-32 victory in New Orleans against the Saints who were giving eight points.  That should have Drew Brees and Company in a bad mood when they travel to Charlotte for Sunday's matchup with the Panthers.

Oddsmakers and a lot of bettors apparently think it's the Saints who are in trouble, not Carolina.  New Orleans opened as a 3-point favorite, but was quickly down to -2½ at most shops in Las Vegas monitored by the Don Best Pro Odds.  A couple of offshore sites had the Saints at -1 for the NFC South battle.

NFL betting windows posted a total in the 50½-51 span for Sunday's kickoff at Bank of America Stadium which is part of FOX's early broadcast lineup.

Perhaps it was a perfect storm that led to New Orleans' loss to Washington, starting with Griffin's effort and Mike Shanahan's coaching record in season openers, now 15-4 and counting.  There was also all of the offseason turmoil surrounding the Saints who spent the entire preseason planning around suspensions only to have DE Will Smith and LB Jon Vilma pardoned two days before the season opener.  Vilma did not play as he continues to recover from knee surgery in the offseason while Smith started and got in on four tackles.

All eyes will be on the defense this Sunday after the 'Skins rolled up 464 yards of total offense in Week 1.  Saints defenders never intimidated Griffin into turning the ball over as Washington ended with a clean slate in that column.  Brees and the New Orleans offense coughed up three TO's, meanwhile, his second of two picks turning into the Redskins' final seven points.

Carolina is also coming off at setback as chalk after falling 16-10 in Tampa Bay.  The Panthers were laying a field goal in the contest and never could recover from a 13-zip halftime deficit that was decided on the ground in the end.  The Buccaneers ran for 130 yards to help keep Cam Newton and the Carolina offense off the field with nearly a 25-minute advantage on the clock.

Newton did have over 300 yards through the air, but also threw a pair of INT's and didn't factor at all in the running game as he did so often a year ago.  He didn't fare so well against the Saints last season with a combined QB rating below 80 in the two games.

New Orleans has won the last four meetings to take a narrow 6-4 lead in the last 10.  The teams split ATS a year ago with home covers and Carolina is 6-2 ATS the last eight.  One other winning bet in recent years has been the 'under' when the squads play in Charlotte, an 8-game streak to that side snapped last October at BoA Stadium, a 30-27 Saints win with a 51½-point mark.

Early injury reports list three Carolina players as questionable for Sunday's match, including starting DE Greg Hardy who is nursing a sore shoulder.  Reserve guard Jeff Byers (knee) and backup tailback Jonathan Stewart (ankle) are in the same boat.

New Orleans may be without WR Devery Henderson due to a concussion that has him questionable.  Nickle cornerback Johnny Patrick is also questionable with an injured right knee.

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